Monday, June 20, 2011

"It's Their Choice..."

I'm watching "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" courtesy of my sister who wants to change careers and go into food science (or something).

If I hear one more phrase to the effect of "Look, I know this isn't the healthiest thing but this is what people want.  It's their choice..."  I'm going to turn off the show.  (So pretty soon, I imagine....)

People seem to be conflating "my choice" with "so I'll do naff all about anything about food because I'll just leave everyone's choice up to them".  Even if they are passionate about getting people to think differently about food.  Even if children at the schools are clearly unable to make the same kinds of choices their parents are.  Even if the food choices we adults have today are shaped by governmental food policies dating to the '50s.  Even if (as Philosophy PhD Husband pointed out) the highly touted "French Way of Eating" is partly that way because of no-snacking policies developed during the Third Republic.

Which is just to say, sure people have choices.  But they're limited ones - limited by both lack of vision for the future (what, really, do we want for our kids) and our lack of depth perception about what has gone before.  Policy does affect what people do.  And now people, individuals with, yes, "choices," want to change the policies, and, I guess we could say, are making a choice to try to change the policies.  But this has weirdly devolved into arguments about "You can't do that because you're messing with MY choices." 

It's just a zero sum game.  There're only losers in that scenario because there's actually never any room to maneuver.  One becomes a slave to "the choice" regardless of what that "choice" is.


  1. "One becomes a slave to "the choice" regardless of what that "choice" is. "

    Brilliant! This applies to many areas, way beyond just food choice.

    Related, check out the book _Nudge_ by Richard Thaler.

  2. Anna - thanks for the book rec! I took a look at the Amazon preview and it looks like a really good read.

    Re: "the choice" applying to many areas. Yes. Guess what my students' answer always is when presented with a supposedly "real-life" dilemma about, say, abortion, or health care for the elderly, or any other thing, really: "it's their choice."

  3. I ran into a lot of this kind of attitude regarding my thesis topic and it always seemed to me a bogus sort of rendering of choice. Closely related is the concept of "freedom."